Political intelligence registration provision Print
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Written by Grassley Press   
Friday, 10 February 2012 08:42

Floor Speech of Sen. Chuck Grassley

Political Intelligence Amendment to the STOCK Act

Delivered Feb. 9, 2012

I would like to speak as if in morning business on my amendment to the STOCK Act.

In the dark of night Tuesday, the House released its version of the STOCK Act, which wiped out any chance at meaningful transparency for the political intelligence industry.

What we are faced with is a powerful industry that works in the shadows.  They don’t want people to know what they do or who they work for.  They are afraid of sunlight.

My amendment was adopted here in the Senate on a bipartisan basis, a rare occurrence recently.  It simply requires registration for lobbyists who seek information from Congress in order to trade on that information.

It’s straightforward.  If trades are taking place based on political intelligence obtained from Congress or the executive branch, people should know who is gathering such information.

Not requiring political intelligence professionals to register and disclose their contacts with government officials is a gaping loophole that my amendment fixes.  In fact, political intelligence firms actually brag about this loophole.

For example, on its website, the Open Source Intelligence Group, a political intelligence firm, says the following:

“Our political intelligence operation differs from standard 'lobbying' in that The OSINT Group is not looking to influence legislation on behalf of clients, but rather provide unique 'monitoring' of information through our personal relationships between lawmakers, staffers, and lobbyists.

Providing this service for clients who do not want their interest in an issue publicly known is an activity that does not need to be reported under the Lobbying Disclosure Act, thus providing an additional layer of confidentiality for our clients.

This service is ideal for companies seeking a competitive advantage by allowing a client's interests to remain confidential…”

If you didn’t hear it the first time, let me repeat some of that for you,

“Providing this service for clients who do not want their interest in an issue publicly known is an activity that does not need to be reported under the Lobbying Disclosure Act, thus providing an additional layer of confidentiality for our clients.”

You have it here on paper.  This firm is telling potential clients, if you don’t want anyone to know what you are asking of federal officials, hire us.  That’s just wrong, but that’s why firms like this don’t want to register.

If somebody on Wall Street is trying to make money off of conversations they have with senators or staff, we should know who they are representing.  It’s just that simple.

Since the passage of my amendment, which would require political intelligence lobbyists to register as lobbyists, I have heard a great deal of “concern” from the lobbying community.

Political intelligence professionals have claimed that they should do their business in secret for several reasons.

First, they’ve said that if they are required to register, they will no longer be able to sell information to their clients because people will not want to hire them.  That makes me wonder, what do they have to hide?

Second, they have said that many of them have large numbers of clients, and it would take them a lot of time to register these large numbers of secret clients.  Again, that makes me think we need more transparency to find out who all these people buying political intelligence are.

Third, they have claimed that it would not address the so-called “20 percent loophole” that allows people who spend less than 20 percent of their time lobbying from having to register as lobbyists.

Well, on this, I have some good news for them.  We don’t make the mistake that caused the 20 percent loophole.

My amendment requires anyone who makes a political intelligence contact to have to register.   No loopholes, no deals, no special treatment – everyone registers.

Finally, I just want to assure people: Journalists won’t need to register.  A constituent looking for information in order to make business decisions won’t have to register.  Only political intelligence brokers, people who seek information so that others can trade securities, would have to register.

As I said before, if people want to trade stocks from what we do here in Congress, we should know who you are.  The American people deserve a little sunlight into this industry.  Last night the House turned away from transparency.  The House supported the status quo.

What we need is a full and open conference process so that Congress, both the House and Senate, can work together and improve this bill.  If not, I worry that we will miss the best opportunity we have had for openness and transparency in years.

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